Australia concern as Qantas to list Taiwan as part of China


Qantas is poised to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites, sparking concern from Australia's foreign minister.
Qantas is poised to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites, sparking concern from Australia's foreign minister. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Qantas is poised to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites, sparking concern Tuesday (June 5) from Australia's foreign minister who said private firms must be able to conduct business "free from political pressure".

The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines in April, asking them to comply with Beijing's standards of referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.

Despite Taiwan's having been governed separately for around seven decades, with its own government and own military, China considers the democratic island a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary.

In late May, AFP found several foreign airlines were still listing Taiwan as a country, including Australia's national carrier.

Qantas' decision to change its websites comes as relations between Canberra and Beijing have soured as Australia introduces a raft of reforms to espionage and foreign interference legislation, with China singled out as a focus of concern.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday acknowledged that the website was a matter for Qantas, but said: "Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments".

Qantas chief Alan Joyce on Tuesday defended the carrier’s move to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites after Australia’s foreign minister said private firms must be able to conduct business “free from political pressure”.  

Joyce told reporters at an annual meeting of global airlines in Sydney that “our intention is to meet the requirements”, but there were some technical delays.  He defended the decision to comply with Beijing’s demands, stressing that “it’s not airlines that define what countries are, it’s governments”.  

“And at the end of the day, the Australians, like a lot of countries, have a ‘One China’ policy,” Joyce added.  “So we’re not doing anything different than (what) the Australian government is doing in that case and I think that’s the case for a lot of airlines.”

Beijing has in recent months renewed its push to force Western companies to comply with its naming standards - which Washington has labelled "Orwellian" - or risk losing access to China's huge market.

Clothing supplier Gap and hotel chain Marriott have also come under pressure to amend websites or products that were perceived as slights to its national sovereignty.